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Create a Virtual Hard Drive in Windows 7

Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest Windows release is the smoothest operating system I have come across in my entire life in terms of user experience. It has an easy to learn user interface that looks marvelous and does the job equally well. It is extremely snappy and has been done in great detail so that there are no loose ends. This has made Windows 7 a huge success over any earlier version of Windows, especially the very popular Windows XP.

I have used Windows 7 for over a year now and am extremely satisfied with the new features and the uncompromised speed it offers. Windows 7 runs quite fast and is a lot faster than Windows Vista. A new feature of Windows 7 that we are going to see today is creating a virtual drive.

Some words on Virtual Hard Drives

A hard drive acts like a container for a specific class of files. It can be used to organize files with great efficiency so that the next time you need that file, you know exactly where to look. This can be done with partitions. Every drive labeled C, D, E and so on so forth is a partition. This is quite different from folder organization as disk drive partitions act as the parent for folders and files.

Virtual Hard Drive is a feature in Windows 7 that allows us to create a virtual hard drive partition at any location on your computer without actually creating a new partition. I will illustrate the need for a virtual hard drive with this simple scenario.

At times, we need hard drives to store data, and our original drive allocated for that data has reached its limit of free space. This situation happens to me all the time with my “Songs and Movies” drive.


This is quite frustrating and as you see, my “Setup Files” has been less used but the drive labeled “Setup Files” has a whole 19.5 GB of free space. I would definitely like to have some space for storing more music and video files. We will see how to solve this problem using a new feature in Windows 7 called Virtual Hard Drive.

Windows 7 requires that a Virtual Hard Drive should be at least of 3 MB in size. It behaves like just another logical drive in Windows, the difference being that it completely remains inside another partition and does not need you to partition your hard disk. The disk has a format of .VHD. The first section here deals with creating the virtual drive and the second, with formatting it and putting it to use.

Creating a Virtual Hard Drive

Step 1: Go to the Start Menu, click on it and then move your mouse over to the Computer icon.

Step 2: Right Click on Computer and select the Manage option.


Step 3: This takes us to a management window that has various tools and utilities to manage Windows. We are interested in the Disk Management option that allows us to manage the storage devices like hard drives, DVD drives and thumb drives connected to out computers.


Clicking on Disk Management will take you to a page, which loads the disk drives on your computer. This might take some time to load completely. You will get a window with a Connecting to Virtual Disk Service… message.

Eventually, you get a window like this that shows all your drives.


I have an insanely high number of drives. Therefore, your screenshot may look similar, but not the same.

Step 4: Next, we create a VHD on a disk drive by going to Action > Create VHD as shown in the next step.


Step 5: In the Window that appears, click on Browse and select the hard drive partition where you want your virtual drive to reside. The selected drive should have as much of free space as you need for your virtual drive.

In the second box, enter the size of the partition you will create. In the arrows labeled 1 and 2, select Dynamically Expanding for a drive that is not of a fixed size and Fixed Size for a fixed size partition.


After making the required preferences, here is how my Virtual Drive settings look.


Click on OK to confirm, and wait for Windows to setup your drive. After the drive has been setup, you will get a notification message saying,

This has created your virtual disk. However, to use it, you will need to format it with Windows. Here comes the second section.

Initializing a Virtual Hard Drive

Step 1: Right click on the area given by the arrow and click on Initialize Disk.


In the Window that appears, you will see options to initialize it. Selecting the MBR option makes this partition a part of the Windows MBR. Thus, it will be identified at boot time as a logical partition and will load automatically on each restart. Click on OK. Now, the disk is online.


Step 2: Right click on the unallocated disk shown by the arrow and click on New Simple Volume.


In the new wizard that appears, click on the Next button all the way. Windows will format the logical partition and after the format, you will get an autoplay window identifying the new partition.


The new partition shows up on your My Computer as well and behaves like just another partition.

Removing the Virtual Hard Drive

To remove the virtual hard drive, bring the drive Offline and then Detach VHD as shown in the screenshots.


Now, you will get a confirmation window that allows you to delete the drive along with the detach operation.

Check the box, Delete the virtual hard disk file after removing the disk and click OK. This deletes the virtual hard disk that you have selected for deletion.


Now, you can create and use and remove virtual drives with ease on your Windows installation using this guide.

~Chinmoy Kanjilal